A narrative inquiry into the physical education and youth sport experiences of gay male rugby players: A Bourdieuian perspective

H. Townshend, J. MacLean*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background: Emerging within the Physical Education (PE) and Youth Sport (YS) context is literature that runs counter to a previous focus on the negative treatment and outcomes for gay pupils (Monk, D. 2011. “Challenging Homophobic Bullying in Schools: The Politics of Progress.” International Journal of Law in Context 7 (2): 181–207; Anderson, E. 2011b. “Masculinities and Sexualities in Sport and Physical Cultures: Three Decades of Evolving Research.” Journal of Homosexuality 58 (5): 565–578), as they negotiate their way through a predominantly heteronormative environment (Landi, D. 2018. “Toward a Queer Inclusive Physical Education.” Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy 23 (1): 1–15). While it would be false to assume that a vast number of gay young people do not suffer at the hands of gendered expectations and homophobic abuse (Stonewall. 2017a. Schools Report Scotland: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Trans Young People in Scotland’s Schools in 2017.), there remains an absence of research into those who have successfully negotiated this–at times–toxic climate (Marshall, D. 2010. “Popular Culture, the ‘Victim’ Trope and Queer Youth Analytics.” International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 23 (1): 65–85; Monk, D. 2011. “Challenging Homophobic Bullying in Schools: The Politics of Progress.” International Journal of Law in Context 7 (2): 181–207). 

Purpose: This paper seeks to make a meaningful contribution to addressing a gap in current research by exploring specifically the lives of gay men who have continued to engage in physical activity (PA) in later life. By exploring these individuals’ PE and YS experiences, greater detail can be identified to how inhibiting factors were mitigated and facilitating factors were exploited in leading to their successful current participation. 

Design and analysis: Three gay males’ experiences are explored through a narrative approach that provided a voice to, and challenged, the cultural story of this often-marginalised community. Through the theoretical lens of Bourdieu’s (Bourdieu, P. 1977. “Structures and the Habitus.” In Outline of a Theory of Practice, 72–95. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Bourdieu, P. 1986. “The Forms of Capital.” In Handbook of Theory and Research on the Sociology of Education, edited by Pierre Bourdieu, 241–258. Westport: Greenwood; Bourdieu, P. 1989. “Social Space and Symbolic Power.” Sociological Theory 7 (1): 14–25; Bourdieu, P. 2002. “Habitus.” In Habitus: A Sense of Place, 43–53. Burlington: Ashgate) underpinning social theory, and his conceptual tools of Habitus, Capital and Field, the researchers were able to disentangle the complex negotiations of three gay males’ social experiences offering detailed and unique insights throughout each stage of the research process. Within their stories, notions of heteronormativity, hypermasculinities and low perceived physical competence were identified as inhibiting factors, while increased opportunities, representation and education were recognised to facilitate their return to rugby and potentially enhance future youth PE and YS experiences. 

Conclusion: The paper makes links between three gay males involvements in PE and current engagement in YS, and identifies how inhibiting factors were mitigated and facilitating factors were exploited in order to achieve successful current participation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalPhysical Education and Sport Pedagogy
Early online date19 Apr 2023
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Apr 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • heteronormativity
  • hypermasculinities
  • narratives
  • Physical education
  • youth sport

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